Talking Tactics | Watford v Swansea City
Football stats experts WhoScored.com take a look at the form of Swansea City striker Liam Cullen, and assess the impact he could make in this weekend's season finale against Watford.
After a lengthy slog, the Championship season comes to a head this weekend, although there is more action to come for the four play-off sides.
Swansea have already secured their spot in the top six and will face Bournemouth or Barnsley later this month for the opportunity to join Norwich and Watford in the Premier League next season.
The Swans round off the regular campaign with a trip to Vicarage Road and, while many would have at one stage earmarked this clash as potential showdown for an automatic promotion finish, there is nothing at stake for either side.
Rather, Swansea are looking to build momentum ahead of the play-offs as they aim to better last season's performance, where they were knocked out by losing finalists' Brentford at the semi-final stage.
Nevertheless, with the pressure off, Swansea can play their natural game and a win over Watford this weekend would be the perfect morale boost. The trip to the Hornets also presents Steve Cooper with the chance to hand his fringe stars the chance to impress ahead of the play-offs.
Morgan Whittaker, for example, bagged his first league goal for Swansea in last week's 2-1 win over Derby and Liam Cullen, who led the charge in the victory, will seek to notch his third Championship goal for the Swans at Watford's expense.
An ankle injury sustained in January has restricted Cullen to just 12 league outings this season, seven of which have come off the bench.
However, a brace in the 5-1 FA Cup win over Nottingham Forest prior to his time on the sidelines gave Cooper and supporters a timely reminder of his goalscoring quality, and he returned to action with aplomb, scoring in the 2-2 draw with Wycombe last month.
And the 22-year-old will be looking to add to his tally at Watford.
The Hornets have shipped fewer home goals (12) than any other Championship side this season, and this defensive resolve has been a key reason for their immediate Premier League return.
Cullen, then, will need to be up to the challenge of getting the better of the division's tightest backline in order to fire Swansea to all three points, all the more difficult given Watford have kept six successive home clean sheets.
Yet Cullen's confidence in his pursuit of goal should be unwavering and, having mustered at least one shot in seven of his last eight league outings, the youngster is unfazed by the task at hand.
Should Watford target the Welsh forward then it could also prove their downfall. One of Cullen's WhoScored.com styles of play is 'gets fouled often' and the match forecast suggests that it is likely that Swansea 'will score from a direct free kick', presenting another route to goal for the south Wales side.
And while Watford have been solid on home turf in 2020-21, Swansea's record on the road remains one of the best in the division. Indeed, only Norwich (48) and Brentford (39) have claimed more away points than the Swans (38) in the Championship this season, so Watford need to be at their best if they are to keep the Swans grounded.
That'll require another steadfast performance from centre-back William Troost-Ekong. The 27-year-old has started 31 of 45 league matches this season and will be looking to play his role in seeing out the season with another clean sheet victory.
Watford's win percentage increases to 61.3% from 50% when Troost-Ekong starts in the Championship, and his three shots blocked in their recent 1-0 win at champions Norwich shows the Nigerian is prepared to put his body on the line against the Championship's top sides for the good of the team.
Cullen will look to be on top form as he seeks to get the better of Troost-Ekong and the Watford defence but, with the pressure off, he can build a head of steam to gain confidence ahead of the play-offs and play his way into the forefront of Cooper's selection thoughts.